The Discreet Bourgeois

Possessed by an urgency to make sure all this stuff I love doesn't just disappear

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24 Frames by Abbas Kiarostami

I always get nervous when I hear the phrase ‘experimental film’. What I hear is ‘self-indulgent and boring’ Many experimental films are whims of the director/writer and represent very personal feelings and images that the general audience will find it almost impossible to decipher or relate to.

This week I watched two of Jean Cocteau’s experimental Orphic films: The Blood of a Poet and The Testament of Orpheus. Both were filled with beautiful images, as you would expect from Cocteau, but they were also filled with lots of mumbo-jumbo about the task of the artist and the time/space continuum….I think. Worth watching for sure, but I don’t think worth revisiting.

I also watched 24 Frames by Abbas Kiarostami. Experimental yes, but Kiarostami outlines the experiment very clearly in the opening of the film, so we are never lost. The experiment is to take 24 pictures (A famous Breughel painting and 23 photos taken by Kiarostami), and show what might happen two minutes before and two minutes after the static image.

I imagine that he chose 24 because of film being shown at 24 frames a second. Thus. the film explodes 1 second of film time into a full-length movie. Interesting concept, I thought.

I watched the first few ‘frames’ (the Breughel and a photo of a winter landscape) trying to get my bearings. I felt this could be a slog. Then I had the idea to set a timer for two minutes and as each frame started, I would also start the timer. When the timer sounded, I would know that that I was at the original image that was being expanded. I would see clearly how Kiarostami’s imagination was working. Watching it this way might sound tedious, but actually it allowed me to be part of the experiment and follow Kiarostami’s imagination and he gave life to the static images.

Not to everyone’s taste, I guess, but I had fun

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The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. À nous la liberté (René Clair)
  2. Paris qui dort (René Clair)
  3. Boudu sauvé des eaux (Jean Renoir)
  4. Double Suicide (Masahiro Shinoda)
  5. Blood of a Poet (Jean Cocteau)
  6. The Testament of Orpheus (Jean Cocteau)
  7. No Man of Her Own (Wesley Ruggles)
  8. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola)
  9. 24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami)
  10. Mahler (Ken Russell)


1- This time around I found À nous la liberté not a lot of fun, even though it is regarded as a classic comedy. It is kind of a French version of what Chaplin would have done if he had really went wild in his silent days with his left-leaning politics. Being rich is as much of a prison as being in prison. I had much with Paris qui dort, which is sometimes referred to as The Crazy Ray. A mad scientist creates a ray that puts everyone in Paris to sleep for several days, except for our main characters. Wackiness ensues.

2- Double Suicide is one of many Japanese films that takes its story from Kabuki theater. What makes this film unique is the ‘realism’ of the set often turns into the artifice of the Kabuki stage, while retaining the naturalness of contemporary acting. Fascinating to watch. Most films like this go for one extreme or the other. Shinoda mixes both well.

3- The Godfather was my birthday viewing gift to myself this year. ‘Nuff said!

4- For thoughts on 24 Frames, Blood of a Poet and The Testament of Orpheus please see this.

5- I love Gustav Mahler. He is a quasi-god to me. This Ken Russell movie, which I had seen years ago and remembered liking, had me shaking my head in disbelief. It starts out in a straight-forward fashion, telling the story of the great composer’s last train ride to Vienna with flashbacks to his childhood and other earlier memories. This is fine. But he seems to lose control of himself and the Russellisms come like a sledge hammer. Do we gain anything by the fantasy scene of Mahler’s conversion to Catholicism being presided over and being lauded by Cosima Wagner, Richard Wagner’s widow and notorious Anti-Semite? The scene takes place in a barren landscape and Cosima is dressed as a Nazi Domintrix complete with swastika on her butt. The climax of this is her forcing Mahler to bite into a pig’s head. Really.